In my first Pastoral Counselling class this week we talked about what it means to be compassionate. How would you define it?
Showing compassion is entering into the suffering of others – Carrol Wise
Compassion is the art of communicating the Gospel to someone at their point of need – Phil Zylla
What surprised me was my Professor’s assertion that Compassion is not a natural response; It must be learned. Normally we shy away from suffering. We look the other way; we pretend we don’t notice; we change the subject. Our natural human response to human suffering is fear and self preservation. There is no such thing as a compassionate person, only people who have learned to be compassionate.
I found it interesting that in a room with 20 ministers or minister ‘wanna-bes’ each person said the same thing: They find pastoral care difficult and they aren’t naturally very good at it (I thought it was just me!) It turns out that no one naturally does this well. In serving someone in crisis you are going against your natural inclination. You are doing something that you had to learn to do; maybe from your Parents; maybe from someone at your church. The point is that compassion is an unnatural response of the human heart. It is very much like Jesus but not very much like me; not yet anyway.